Monday, August 04, 2014

Splurge vs Save: How to Build a Wardrobe on a Budget

We’ve all been there. Perusing the latest issue of Vogue, examining merchandise in your favorite store, and something catches your eye. It’s exquisite, perfect, and incredibly chic. I need it! Your brain exclaims. Hesitantly you peep at the price tag, and instantly regret it. The stunning garment is well beyond your price range. You start to rationalize. Maybe if I cut out Starbucks for the next 39 months…maybe I’ll start skipping lunches, I’ve been trying to lose weight anyway… Deep down you know that none of these excuses are valid options, but still you scheme some way to justify the purchase. Maybe you’ll charge it to a credit card. Maybe you’ll actually stick to your frugal plan, and forgo your morning latte. Maybe you’ll begrudgingly accept defeat, abandoning your covetous quest. Whatever your solution, it seems to work, until the next time you glance over the glossy pages of a fashion magazine, or scan a clothing rack. Something catches your eye and the whole cycle begins again.

Given the frequently overwhelming expense of of upscale apparel it’s logical to assume that money is mandatory for an abundant wardrobe. However, just because you are on a budget, you do not have to sacrifice style. Anyone can look chic, on any budget; it just becomes a matter of utilizing your resources to their fullest extent.

Prioritization is an essential part of building an economical wardrobe. You need to evaluate clothing’s overall value, and determine if it’s worth the cost. Consider how many times you will wear an article of clothing. Each time you don it, it accumulates value. Divide the number of times you expect to wear a garment, by its total cost. Timeless styles that will stay in fashion indefinitely, such as classic jewelry, little black dresses, and jeans, tend to have a very low cost per wear, while the opposite is true for trends. For example, if you spend $500 on a trendy romper, and wear it twice, then retire it to the back of your closet once it falls out of fashion, your cost per wear is $250.  ($500/2 times worn= $250) But if you spend $200 on a divine pair of jeans, and wear them once a week for the two years, your cost per wear is a mere $1.92 ($200/(52.18 weeks in a year * 2 years)=$1.92). Try to limit cost per wear to about a $1, for your everyday wardrobe. Staples tend to be the best items to splurge on. Since they’re classic, you can expect to keep wearing them until their eventual deterioration. Therefore, it’s a good idea to invest in a high quality garment, that you’ll be able to wear for years, while the opposite is true for statement pieces. After all what does the longevity matter if you only wear the item once? 

Still, evaluating a garment’s worth is not necessarily effective means by which to justify or dismiss a purchase. Sometimes attire can have an extremely low cost per wear but a price tag that still greatly exceeds your means. Similarly, not all luxury items need to be costly. Quality items can be attained affordably with a little ingenuity.

Thrift stores are the promised-land for frugal fashionistas, and can provide easy access to some ridiculously good deals. I am a huge advocate of thrift shopping, and have made some incredible secondhand purchases, including, a Rebecca Minkoff purse, Ray Ban sunglasses, a Marc Jacobs sweater, and a Fossil wallet, as well as the dress worn in this shoot, all of which were genuine, in wonderful condition, and below 15$. Location and timing play the two biggest roles in success while thrifting. Try shopping in a variety of neighborhoods, particularly in low-income areas, where designer goods are frequently overlooked, to find locations with the best selection of items for your taste. Be sure to check stores frequently, as new merchandise is introduced everyday. Even if you can’t find any designer pieces, you are still likely to discover some very fashionable, and affordable merchandise. Some thrift stores even offer discounts to shoppers that donate their own used items to the establishment. Find the perfect dress a few sizes too big? Tailors are also incredibly helpful when buying used clothing. They can offer you near custom pieces that are still cheaper alternatives to buying new.

Online -
 The Internet can also provide affordable access to gorgeous, luxury styles. Numerous websites sell secondhand designer apparel, such as The Real Real, Vaunte, and These groups accept only premier brands in good condition, and validate each object to ensure authenticity. These websites are a great way to add high quality staples to your wardrobe at an unbelievably low cost, as you can be assured of clothing’s longevity, while still enjoying hefty discounts.

Don’t underestimate the usefulness of Ebay. It is another wonderful tool in developing an amazing but affordable wardrobe. Be aware that Ebay can’t validate its merchandise’s genuineness, like the websites above, so make sure to double check that items are authentic prior to purchase. (There are lots of amazing websites that outline the details in recognizing and avoiding counterfeit items, so it’s easy to determine if an object is real, prior to hitting the bid button.)

Before clicking “Buy” always check sites that can help make your deal even better. is an extremely helpful website for discovering sales and free promo codes, when shopping online. Styleshop is also a valuable tool for shopping on the Internet. It allows users to compare an item’s cost in various stores, and will point you towards the cheapest option. It can also be used to keep track of upcoming sales and discounts and will alert you if the price drops, that way you don’t miss or forget about a sale. Websites like Ideeli, Gilt, Ruelala, and Hautelook are also hughely beneficial for online shoppers. These sites offer high-end apparel for prices that are drastically lower than retail costs.

Discount Retailers-
If you prefer to shop in person, there are also a plethora of cost cutting options available. Nordstrom Rack, TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and Ross are some of my favorite discount stores. They often have amazing deals on stunning clothing. As with thrift stores, timing and location are important aspects of finding the best possible deal. However, these vendors update their merchandise less frequently than thrift shops, generally only once a week. Check with each retailer to see when they get their shipments, that way you have first choice of merchandise.

Fast Fashion-
Since trendy garments are likely to receive limited wear, it’s helpful to prioritize value over quality. Pieces don’t need to last if they are only worn a few times. Fast Fashion stores like Zara, H & M, and Forever 21 are your best options for buying trends, as they deliver the latest styles at remarkably low prices. While their quality may not always be outstanding, what does it matter if something holds up in the back of your closet?

Throughout history being fashionable has been a sign of wealth. Affluent members of society could afford to change their wardrobes on regularly as styles evolved, and trends changed, while less privileged individuals had to keep wearing the same ensembles indefinitely, until the garbs eventually deteriorated. Fortunately, today, people are offered more options. Beautiful clothing is no longer exclusive to the elite.  Through the use of modern amenities, adequate prioritization, and a little resourcefulness anyone, and everyone, rich or poor, can look chic.

Finances can be a daunting issue. While I hope these guidelines provided more insight on being frugal and fashionable, I have only been able to scratch the surface of money management, fortunately there are a number of resources available online to guide your way. Check out for more information on living simply, yet stylishly. 

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